By: Kim Singer
Six months and one day after the very worst day in our community, I will send my tenth-grade daughter back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When asked by friends and co-workers how I feel about this, I want to say: ‘how long do you have?’ and ‘ask me again tomorrow as it will be a different answer.’
When she returns to school, there will be voids in her life. I have come to realize that when someone you care for loses their life, the people that are left lose a piece of theirs as well. My daughter lost the next three years of memories with Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran. What is worse though, and cuts to the core, is that Jaime and Cara lost their chance at making memories as well. Simply by being at school, they lost their lives and their future selves. Six months and one day later, I cry for these girls, and all the victims, every day. I cry for every birthday missed, every homecoming they will not attend, for their families who miss them so very much, and for every first day of school they will miss. How could I know that when my daughter held up her handmade sign on the first day of ninth grade, that it is only sheer luck that it was not her last first day. I do not know why my child was spared. Spared, because she has her life, and every day I am so thankful. Not spared because so many parts of her, and who she was on the path to being, are forever altered.
I find myself growing angrier every day. My child will be going back to a school where the tallest building, seen from every point on campus, houses the very worst reminders of that day. It is not a mirage, where you can blink and it goes away. The most violent of acts, in this place that my child lived a life so separate to the one she inhabits at home, is forever and fundamentally changed. When I drive by this building, I quickly steal a glance. Foreboding and blacked out, I never look long. I do not have to walk by it, see it, and be reminded of it every day like she, and every other student, will be. I rationally understand the legalities of keeping the building upright. I emotionally cannot accept them though. I am growing more despondent by the day, fervently wishing that someone in this school district we call home, would become a leader. A person who is not afraid of accountability, of ownership, and of truth. I am surrounded by cowards instead. Cowards with lots of buzzwords except the ones that matter the most: I am sorry. We could have done better.
I am very fortunate, as my children have sailed effortlessly through school. I have not needed to avail myself of any services, or anything that would require their schools to step one inch outside the box that is reserved only for the most typical of kids. However, the people of this community are tired, and we are weary. Our children, the families, and all of us have had to take the reins and have had to fight for every crumb thrown to us in an effort of appeasement. In the moments that I finally needed my school district, I find that they are not there for me, and for our community. My trust and my faith are sapped, and my fear that they do not know any better then they did six months ago is dawning as reality.
I have to be positive for my daughter. This year, as she returns to her new normal, there will continue to be daily fallout. People screaming over who should be fired, replaced, and held accountable, while the wheels of bureaucracy continue to hydroplane into a ditch, for lack of traction. Six months and one day late, we remain heartbroken here. On August 15, I will slap a smile on my face and send my child back to school, where I can only put my faith in something higher that she will return to me. I do not know yet f I can mark the day with our customary photo and a handmade sign. It feels macabre to me, but maybe there is healing in hokey tradition. It will be a game day decision.
Kim Singer is a Coral Springs parent who works in education She has two daughters, ages 13 and 15, one of whom will be a sophomore at MSD. She continues to be inspired every day by people trying to make things better.